After Loss, Riley Moore Plots Next Moves
CHARLESTON — After his recent 12-point loss for his first re-election to the West Virginia House of Delegates, one would think Delegate Riley Moore would take a much-needed break from politics.
Yet, much like his famous grandfather who came back after several political defeats and even fought his way through a near-death experience fighting the Germans in World War II, Moore isn’t ready to give up on making West Virginia a better place.
To do that, Moore filed pre-candidacy paperwork for a potential future run for state treasurer to continue the work he started as a member of the House.
“Certainly, this election didn’t go the way that I wanted, but I want to continue to build on that and continue to fight for the State of West Virginia,” Moore said. “I was really encouraged by everyone who had called me after the election and said ‘This can’t be it. We need you in this fight. Keep pushing and keep fighting.'”
Moore was all set to become the next majority leader of the West Virginia House of Delegates starting in January. With one term under his belt, he was already an assistant majority whip and in charge of acclimating new House members to the legislative process.
There was even talk of Moore being a candidate for House Speaker before he threw his support behind Delegate Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.
That all ended when John Doyle, a former Democratic member of the House who served a term in the early 1980s and served continuously between 1992 and 2012, challenged Moore for his former House seat in Jefferson County.
Doyle defeated Moore 55.93 percent to 44.07 percent.
“We certainly worked as hard as we could in the election,” Moore said. “We’re a unique place in terms of the state and political winds. We went blue.”
Most candidates who lose races — let alone a re-election attempt — often take a break to dust themselves off and re-evaluate political service. Instead, Moore filed pre-candidacy paperwork to potentially challenge State Treasurer John Perdue — the only Democrat on the Board of Public Works — in 2020. Pre-candidacy is a way for candidates interested in an office to test the waters and fundraise to see how much support they gave for a run.
“The treasurer is the (chief financial officer) of the state,” Moore said. “I want to create greater efficiency and oversight in the state treasurer’s office. I’m going to be looking at that office and its current functions and how we can eliminate duplicate or superfluous functions, streamline the office, and return to the people of West Virginia as much of their tax money as possible.”
Firing Moore’s passion for seeking the state treasurer’s office is a potential future he sees where the state’s fiscal health is in jeopardy. According to the 2018 edition of the State Fiscal Ratings, a report by the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University, West Virginia ranks 43rd out of the 50 states for fiscal condition.
“Our state population has been shrinking, but we’re seeing our government growing,” Moore said. “As baby boomers retire, the obligations of the state will increase. If we don’t right-size our government and work to increase our population and tax base, we’re headed for massive tax increases, which is a future I will refuse to allow to pass if I’m elected to state government.”
All in the Family
A Republican from Shepherdstown, Moore comes from a storied West Virginia political family. His grandfather is former Gov. Arch Moore Jr., who was the first governor to serve two terms and the first governor to serve a third non-consecutive term. A World War II hero and Glen Dale native who was shot in the jaw and had to re-learn how to speak, Arch Moore went on serve as a congressman for over a decade between 1957 and 1969, according to the West Virginia Encyclopedia.
While Arch himself was not without his controversies — he pleaded guilty in federal court in 1990 to a series of felonies and spent the remainder of his life proclaiming his innocence — he is still remembered fondly for making West Virginia’s highway infrastructure a top priority.
Arch’s influence inspired several members of the Moore family to enter politics. Moore, named after Arch’s wife Shelley Riley, won his first term for the house in 2016, defeating agriculture lobbyist and former state Young Democrats president Rod Snyder in a close race — 50.57 percent to 49.43 percent. Moore’s cousin, Moore Capito, also won a House seat from the 35th District in Kanawha County as a Republican in 2016.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is the mother of Moore Capito and the aunt of Riley Moore. She also served in the House of Delegates for two terms before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 and the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Moore has much in common with the people of Jefferson County, where many residents commute to Washington, D.C., for work. He travels from his home in Harpers Ferry to Washington, where he is a director at Textron, an aerospace and defense contractor.
Before running for election, Moore served the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly a decade as a staffer for the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He has a bachelor’s degree in Government and International Politics from George Mason University, as well as a master’s degree in Strategic Security Studies from the National Defense University.
But before all that, Moore worked as a welder, earning an apprenticeship certificate from the C.S. Monroe Technology Center in Virginia. It’s these experiences, working in the blue-collar and white-collar worlds, that Moore said would give him valuable insight if elected treasurer.
“I’ve seen both sides of it, and I want to bring that type of holistic view to it,” Moore said. “I’ll roll by sleeves up and get to work in the office and see how I can save the people of West Virginia as much money as possible.”
Learning From Defeat
The 67th District encompasses the very eastern part of Jefferson County and the easternmost point in West Virginia. It’s surrounded by Maryland to the north and Virginia to the south. The district includes the cities of Shepherdstown and Harpers Ferry, known for John Brown’s raid and what some consider to be the first shots fired in the Civil War.
The November midterm election might have also been the first metaphorical shots in a war between rural and urban voters in West Virginia. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Jefferson County is one of three eastern panhandle counties that see consistent population growth — which is notable since West Virginia as whole keeps seeing population losses.
According to 2017 data, Jefferson County saw a 0.9 percent population increase. West Virginia saw 1.2 percent population loss during the same period of time. Jefferson County — and the eastern panhandle itself — is seeing population growth from people choosing to live in West Virginia, but commuting to jobs in Washington, D.C.
Combined with the college community at Shepherd University, the district is also becoming more Democratic-leaning and liberal. A litmus test for the district was Amendment 1, which eliminated the right to an abortion and restricted state funding for abortion procedures. The amendment failed in Jefferson County almost by the same margin that Moore lost his race — by 13 percent.
Moore, who was recently named as chairman for the West Virginia Republican Party’s finance committee and parliamentarian for the state Republican Executive Committee, is in a position to play an active role in how the Grand Old Party presents itself to voters in the state.
“Chairwoman Melody Potter has done a great job, and I want to be a force multiplier for her when it comes increasing the party’s capacity and capabilities around the state,” Moore said. “If you look over the last four years since the Republicans took the majority, we’ve been defined as the party of youth and diversity. We’ve attracted a wide array of different candidates from different backgrounds.”
With the 2020 U.S. Census around the corner, the Legislature will have to redraw congressional and legislative districts. It will be the first time Republicans have been in charge during redistricting, and Moore said it will be crucial for Republicans to maintain control of the Legislature during the next election cycle.
“For me, 2020 is the most important election cycle in any Republican’s lifetime in West Virginia,” Moore said. “As we know, Democrats have gerrymandered those districts. My hope is the Republicans will prevail this upcoming election cycle and redraw fair and equitable districts around the state, so you don’t have these bizarrely drawn districts. I think the people of West Virginia are tired of seeing that.”
The loss in November was a learning experience for Moore, who believes he can help prepare Republican lawmakers, as well as unseat the last remaining Democrat in the executive branch.
I’ve got a lot of fight left in me,” Moore said. “2020 is a huge election cycle and I’m absolutely going to be part of it.”